Richie McCaw has been in high pressure situations before, but never quite this high.
Early this morning before most people had taken their first bite of breakfast the former All Black captain hurled himself out of a plane flying at 15,000 feet above picturesque Mt Maunganui for his first ever skydive.
"I was a little nervous," McCaw admitted shortly after landing. "The most nervous bit is when the door opens and you're still sitting in the plane. You're thinking, "Oh man, I have to get out of here'. But once I was out on the step I was like, 'Right. I'm committed now. I'm off'."
Back on the firm landing ground at Skydive Tauranga, McCaw's wife and former Black Sticks great Gemma McCaw peered up at the baby blue morning sky trying to pick out the small plane that her husband was preparing to leap from.
Then, a small black dot emerged out of the dramatic, billowy white clouds that streaked the sky and word came that McCaw had jumped.
"It's a long moment till that chute actually opens," she said, recounting how she was feeling nervous for him. "I thought they were coming in quite fast as well."
Her thought was right. After jumping McCaw free fell for about a minute before the parachute opened. During that time he would have been falling at speeds reaching 200km/hour.
Things relaxed considerably once the chute deploys. The speed slowed to 30km/hour giving McCaw around three minutes to enjoy the stunning views from the sky that, on this crisp clear morning, stretched all the way to Auckland, more than 200kms away.
"I knew he was in good hands. It was fun to watch. I was thinking, 'I do hope the parachute opens and he comes back in one piece'." Gemma continues. "But once the chute opened I was pretty relaxed. I knew he'd be fine."
McCaw's leap was to announce the pair's new roles as brand ambassadors for Tourism New Zealand. They want to encourage Kiwis to 'do something new' and will spend the next year visiting places they haven't been and getting stuck into activities and experiences that are new for them.
"I like trying something new. I'm always keen to give things a crack. That's my thing," he says. "I'm not saying you need to do things where you put yourself in situations that aren't thought through, but just go and try things."
Pointing at the small plane he just jumped out of he adds, "like skydiving".
"It puts you on edge a little bit, gets you out of your comfort zone. That's what I quite enjoy."
"I'd say he's slightly more on the adventurous scale than me," Gemma laughs. "But I do love things like bungee jumping and jet boating and all those adrenaline rush type things. I love nature and walking and biking and being out there too. That's something we both love to do. Whenever we go somewhere new that's what we always look to do, how we look to explore. It's what we can do there rather than the shops."
The pair will be out and about exploring and while they're hesitant to give away any spoilers of where they'll be dropping into next, McCaw says there is one new place he wants to visit.
"I've never been up the far north and had a look around," he says. "Everyone talks about how awesome it is up there, so I'll go up and have a look around. It might be relaxing at a nice beach somewhere, having a swim in the sea and a bit of fishing. Those sort of things are what I'm pretty keen to check out."
With everything that's gone on this year, Covid, the lockdowns and global travel restrictions, they both say that it's a great opportunity for New Zealanders to get out and see what makes our own country so special.
"It's made us look at what we've got in our own backyard. The opportunity to do all these things that are on offer, it can be as adventurous or as relaxing as you'd like. When you start really having a look there's things for everyone," he says. "That's why we were keen to put our money where our mouth is and do something like today and show people the cool things. I think Kiwis know that we do have that, but it's actually going and experiencing it. It'd be pretty cool if we all start thinking a little more like that."
"I've probably seen as much overseas as I have in my own country. I'm not saying going overseas when things open again is a bad thing at all, you've just got to remember there's opportunities all around New Zealand," he continues.
"You can get just as cool experiences without having to get on a plane for many hours. With the current environment where the opportunities for that are limited you can have as much fun, if not more, in our own country."
Nodding in agreement, Gemma says, "maybe next time I can sign up for one".
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com